My wife Kristina and I dated for six years before we got married in January this year. I was confident that marriage would be a breeze because we’ve literally known each other for close to a decade. But like many people tell you prior to the wedding, the real work truly begins when the party is over and the return flight from your honeymoon lands.
Personally, I believe our first four months of marriage have been fun, eye opening and better than we could have ever imagined it to be. It has also been a learning experience. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been good. Now I don’t want to come across as someone who has “arrived” or knows everything about marriage, but I believe there have been some things that I’ve learned in the first four months that I think are worth sharing. I’ll share four of those lessons to match each month we’ve been married.
1. You have to be intentional: It’s easy for couples to just “go with the flow,” and that’s something I caught myself doing sometimes during our dating years. It’s like we all do sometimes at work—there are just those weeks where we know we could have done more. We get in a routine and forget to be intentional. You can’t do that in marriage. You have to be very intentional. I’m intentional about loving my wife. I’m intentional about actively listening to her when she needs to talk. I’m intentional about making sure we are still going on dates, having fun and keeping the flame LIT! I’m intentional about being in-tune with her needs and knowing when she needs help. Without that constant reminder to myself about being intentional with my actions, it will be easy for me to get lost in the day-to-day activities and stress of the outside world. When that happens, it begins to feel like you’re just living with a roommate and not the love of your life. That can be very detrimental to a marriage.
2. Marriage is not a 50-50 relationship: Man, I was so notorious for this when we were dating. I’d always do my part just because I wanted Kristina to do her part. And if she didn’t, oh well, I did my part and I’m not doing anything else. We didn’t live together prior to getting married so it wasn’t necessarily about household chores. It was more about who was doing their part when it came to spending time together, showing our love to each other and giving the relationship everything. If I was doing my part, Kristina should have been doing her part as well. And if she wasn’t, I was going to stop doing my part. Marriage is not like that. As a matter of fact, if you see your marriage as a 50-50 relationship, it means you’re not doing enough. I’ve learned that you have to give everything. It’s a 100-100 marriage. I’ve learned that I need to go above and beyond and never expect anything in return. I do the things that need to be done, and I never look to just do my part. I go above and beyond never expecting Kristina to match what I’m doing. I don’t do anything with an expectation that she will do her part. But the best thing about this philosophy is that whenever I do more, Kristina does more. And when Kristina goes above and beyond, it makes me go above and beyond. If I did the dishes yesterday and Kristina doesn’t do them today, so what? I’ll do it again and again. That’s what love is. There will be a time when she will do chores for an entire week and not complain. Going the extra mile is very contagious. In addition, knowing Kristina’s love language has also been very important. So if I’m giving everything I have into making her feel loved, it’s going to automatically make her want to give me 100 percent as well.
3. You don’t know your spouse like you should: I thought I knew Kristina; after all we had been together for six years. Nope! I’ve learned so much more about Kristina in the first four months of marriage than I learned in six years. I don’t mean the number of facts I know now is more than what I knew in the last six years. I mean the depth of how much I know her now is completely different. Getting married, seeing each other every day, talking every day, asking her random questions before we fall asleep every night, and being best friends has opened so many windows into Kristina’s life that weren’t opened before. Being intentional and talking about everything allows you to learn things you wouldn’t have known just by dating. I can’t wait to keep learning more about Kristina… like literally just finding out she was a Howard University student until she decided last minute to go to the University of Oklahoma where we would eventually meet… Like, WHAT??
4. Marriage doesn’t automatically make you a better person: There is a misconception that getting married will help you stop some of the things you knew you needed to stop doing before you got married. If you lie a lot, marriage won’t help you stop lying. If you don’t give relationships your all, marriage won’t stop you from checking out other women/men once you get marriage. There were a lot of things that I thought would automatically be fixed once I got married, but I’ve realized in the first four months that that’s far from the truth. I still have serious road rage that I thought would change since Kristina would be in the car with me most of the time. I’m still very stubborn and overwork myself when I know I should have a better work-life balance, especially since Kristina values quality time. I thought getting married would fix it because Kristina would force me to just stop and relax. I still try to fix things on my own and carry my stress on my own shoulders. I thought marriage would make me learn that I have a willing helper to get me through the tough days. The truth is, marriage can and will help me fix these issues because I have a very loving wife who wants the best for me. But she can’t help me change these bad habits if I’m not willing to change. I need to be willing to help her help me. If you have any bad habits that you’re expecting marriage to fix, forget it. Marriage won’t fix anything unless you’re willing to put in the effort and ask for your partner’s help. Talking to Kristina every night before bed, praying, and reading a Bible plan together most nights has helped me a lot. We all have flaws, but marriage doesn’t fix flaws. A spouse can’t fix your bad habits. God does.
I credit a lot of these lessons that have helped us through our first quarter of marriage to the great advice from Godly couples. Marriage counseling through our church allowed us to spend six weeks with a couple who literally walked us though the things we needed to talk about prior to getting married. They walked us though the most common issues newlyweds face and prepared us for this journey. Their wisdom allowed Kristina and I to have a lot of things in place before we got married, and the transition to married life has been smooth thanks to them.
Looking forward to many more months and years of married life with Kristina. It’s been fun so far. It’s LIT!